Developing good communication skills is an ongoing area of personal growth and development worthy of pursuit. Communicating with clarity and in a healthy manner helps individuals engage the world and each other in a respectful manner where each feels valued and heard, couples build bonds of intimacy, and families grow together and maintain strong ties.
In a previous blog, I talked about communication styles and some of the benefits of assertive communication which is considered the healthier communication style. Assertive communication is an expression of thoughts, language and behavior that characterize a mutual respect in engagement between individuals. One of the skills associated with assertive communication which I have found useful and refer to often is the I-Statement.
What is an I-Statement?
An I-Statement is one in which a person expresses their thoughts, emotions and opinions. This kind of statement can be as simple as stating, “I am sad,” or, “I think the room should be blue.” It can also be more extensive, encapsulating what’s happening in the moment between those in conversation. I tend to refer to the latter I-Statement form more because it provides for a more in-depth exchange in conversation. This form of the I-Statement has three parts.
In the first part of the I-Statement, the speaker identifies what it is to which they are responding by highlighting what the other person said or did that was impactful. This identification is factual. It answers the question, what specifically did the person say or do?
For example: When you took my books off the table…
In the second part of the I-Statement, the speaker uses feeling words to identify how they have been impacted by the actions or words of the other person. It answers the question, how do you feel about what the person did or said? This helps a person to give expression to emotions without acting out of or allowing their emotions to control them.
For example: When you took my books off the table I felt annoyed…
The third part of the I-Statement, the speaker shares their preference in response to what was said or done. It answers the questions, what would you like done differently? In this, the speaker is asking to be respected. They are also inviting the other person to know something about them by indicating how they want to be treated.
For example: When you took my books off the table, I felt annoyed. I would prefer in the future you ask me if I am done and give me a chance to wrap up.
Benefits to Using I-Statements
There are several benefits of using I-Statements. Utilizing an I-statement can help the passive person be more honest and courageous in owning their voice – feelings, thoughts, beliefs and opinions – as they dare to show up more confidently in conversations. Utilizing I-statements also helps the aggressive person dial back their overbearing nature, by communicating rather than spewing out their feelings while respecting the boundaries and rights of those with whom they are engaging. The use of I-Statements can help a person communicate with others without being judgmental and offensive. Judging or evaluating the words or actions of others is one of the quickest ways to put someone on the defensive and shut down a conversation. Lastly, I – Statements allow for the persons in conversation to provide additional information that when received, respected and responded to can result in positive change. Each person can experience knowing and being known at a deeper level.
Using I-Statements is a powerful communication skill that allows for the opportunity to clarify any miscommunication and consider change. At the same time, it is not foolproof. There are situations in which the use of an I-Statement might prove to be ineffective. Such an instance is where a person denies having taken the action or made the comment being brought to their attention. Whether to use an I-Statement also takes into account the relationship and how safe it is to express your heart to that person or in that moment.
Learning to effectively use communications skills like I-Statements to help others understand how you feel and what is important to you is key to your mental health. If you need help with identifying your voice and learning to communicate more effectively, let us help you. Give Optimum Joy a call today!
Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan
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